As the show moves into the second half of the season, the darkest episode yet takes place in a white-out.
Let’s bitch it out…Initially I contemplated covering Fargo when it debuted, but time restrictions and the surprising revival of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. stayed my hand. With the majority of the conventional TV season over and done, it’s time to check in on FX’s initially risky, surprisingly awesome one-off series.
Right off the bat, I’ll confess that I saw and enjoyed Fargo (the movie), but I’m by no means an expert. For example, I know that most episodes feature a homage (subtle or obvious) to the Coen brothers film, but I don’t usually pick up on them until I read other reviews / comments. Of all of the episodes so far, however, this feels the most “Coen-esque” to me; ‘Buridan’s Ass’ nails the perfect combination of dry, comic observations with dark, upsetting violence.
For me the sad, pathetic death of Don Chumph (Glenn Howerton) is a highlight, as is the white-out confrontation between Malvo (Billy Bob Thorton), hitmen Mr. Numbers (Adam Goldberg) and Mr. Wrench (Russell Harvard), Molly (Allison Tolman) and Gus (Colin Hanks). The former event we’ve seen coming from a long way off – to the point that I was surprised that Don survived last week’s encounter with Malvo. Still, it surprisingly affecting to see the poor spray-tanned would-be blackmailer go out in a hail of slow-motion bullets with an operatic score blaring on the soundtrack. Don may have been a colossal idiot, but Malvo seems especially cruel for taking him out in such an undignified way.
If Don’s death is more of a Jerry Bruckheimer extravagant death, the white-out shoot-out is a classic moody thriller. The FX work is a bit unfortunate in that it looks more desaturated (ala Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow / Sin City) than an actual blizzard, but that doesn’t diminish the tension of watching hired gunmen suddenly loom out of the snow. As usual Malvo comes out on top (no surprise there), which unfortunately means the death of Mr. Numbers. I completely agree with Alan Sepinwall that Mr. Numbers’ death is a surprise though it should be interesting to see his deaf partner seek revenge (assuming he’s not dead, too).
As for Gus’ mistakenly shooting Molly? There’s already speculation on discussion forums that she was shot by Mr. Wrench and Gus simply fired into the storm. Both options make sense: we know Gus isn’t a great cop, but that should also mean that he would have difficulty hitting any kind of target, especially during a white-out. Regardless of who’s at fault for shooting Molly, I seriously doubt that she’s dead. While Fargo has killed a surprisingly large number of characters – often unexpectedly – I think that Molly has to live since she’s the only one capable of bringing Malvo down.
- Speaking of pathetic deaths, how ironic / sad is it that Stavros (Oliver Platt) returns the briefcase of money only to discover that his son and Dmitri have died in a car accident following a freak fish storm. Anyone else reminded of the climatic frog rain scene from Magnolia?
- Lester (Martin Freeman) once again skirts trouble by the hair of his nose. For me, his story is the most problematic as I’ve found several of his close-calls a tad too unbelievable. Here we’re meant to believe that Lester could escape the hospital long enough to make two stops without the nurse discovering his absence. That’s a big ask.
- Setting plausibility aside, Lester, to me, is the ultimate villain of the series. While Malvo is clearly a villain to love/hate, Lester’s actions – framing his brother for his wife’s murder and using his autistic nephew to do the dirty work – make him pretty damn hissable.
- Finally, according to AV Club, the title of the episode refers to a story named after French philosopher Jean Buridan. In this tale, “a donkey that is equally hungry and thirsty is confronted with a pile of hay and a trough of water, which are equal distance from it. Because it’s caught in the middle between the two options, the donkey never makes up its mind, and it dies.” The review rightfully asks who in this episode is the donkey. Any guesses?
Your turn: what did you think of the bloodiest episode yet? Is Molly dead? Did you feel for Don in his final moments? Has Stavros suffered sufficiently? Is Lester the true villain of the series? Sound off below.
Fargo airs Tuesdays at 10pm EST on FX